Pakistan to establish anti-cyberterrorism agency

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Updated 06 May 2018

Pakistan to establish anti-cyberterrorism agency

  • Agency aims to counter online presence of militants, extremists.
  • Groups such as Daesh are recruiting Pakistanis online, Dad said.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government has decided to establish the National Cyber Terrorism Security Investigation Agency to counter terrorists and militants on online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Islamabad has allocated 100 million Pakistani rupees ($865,000) to the Interior Ministry’s annual budget for the fiscal year 2018-19 to establish the agency.

“We’ve eliminated the militant presence from our tribal territories by launching several military operations,” Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Talpur, deputy director at the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), told Arab News on Sunday.

“Now there’s a need to counter the online presence of militants involved in recruiting and brainwashing our youth.”

NACTA is working on the preparation and dissemination of counter-narratives on online platforms, he said.

The government has allocated 24 million rupees to establish the Cyber Patrolling Unit to track down militants guilty of hate speech, extremist activities and recruitment.

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director Mohammed Shoaib said he is unsure if the government wants to merge the FIA’s cybercrime wing with the National Cyber Terrorism Security Investigation Agency. 

“I think all cybercrime-related institutions and departments should work under a single authority or agency to improve their work,” he told Arab News.

Nighat Dad, director of the Digital Rights Foundation and a cybersecurity expert, said the government’s focus and priorities regarding counterterrorism and extremism on social media are not well defined.

The police, the FIA and NACTA are separately empowered under different laws to act against terrorists and extremists, but there is no synergy between them to implement the laws effectively, she added.

“Our departments lack expertise to counter extremist content online,” she said. “There is a need to improve coordination with corporations like Facebook and Twitter to take down extremist and hate content.”

Groups such as Daesh are recruiting Pakistanis online, Dad added. Regarding the government’s blocking of the messaging service Telegram, she said: “There is a thin line between national security and freedom of expression, so the authorities must recognize this while going after militants and terrorists.”

The government should bring all relevant stakeholders under a single platform to effectively implement measures against extremists and militants, without compromising freedom of expression, Dad added.

“It will definitely take time to purge our online spaces, and the issue cannot be addressed in just a few days or months by setting up new institutions and agencies,” she said.


Philippine police say will arrest anyone flouting vaping ban

Updated 20 November 2019

Philippine police say will arrest anyone flouting vaping ban

  • The ban came days after Philippine health authorities reported the nation’s first vaping-related lung injury
  • The devices are already banned in several places such as Brazil, Singapore, Thailand and the US state of Massachusetts

MANILA: Philippine police were ordered Wednesday to arrest anyone caught vaping in public, just hours after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced he would ban e-cigarettes.
The abrupt prohibition, revealed by Duterte late Tuesday adds to a growing global backlash against a product once promoted as less harmful than tobacco smoking.
Duterte, a former smoker, called the devices “toxic” and said vaping introduced “chemicals” into the user’s body.
He ordered the arrest of anyone vaping publicly in a country that already has some of Asia’s toughest anti-smoking rules.
No formal, written order has been made public that spells out the scope of the ban or penalties for violations.
Duterte is notorious internationally for his deadly anti-narcotics crackdown, but he has also targeted tobacco with a wide-ranging ban on smoking in public.
Citing “the order of the president,” on Wednesday a statement from the head of the Philippine police ordered “effective today, all police units nationwide to enforce the ban on use of vapes; ensure that all violators will be arrested.”
The ban came days after Philippine health authorities reported the nation’s first vaping-related lung injury, which resulted in a 16-year-old girl being hospitalized.
Vaping has taken off in the Philippines, with speciality shops and vapers puffing away in public a common sight.
E-cigarette users were caught off guard by the ban and questioned the utility of arresting people who, at worst, were hurting themselves.
“It’s inappropriate. In any case, we don’t hurt people, the environment or animals,” said 22-year-old student Alexis Martin.
“Why are vapers being targeted?”
E-cigarettes warm flavored liquid to produce vapor that is free of the estimated 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, but does contain a number of substances that could potentially be harmful.
Critics say that apart from being harmful in themselves, the multiple exotic flavors of e-cigarette liquids appeal particularly to youngsters and risk getting them addicted to nicotine.
The devices have become hugely popular in the past decade but a rash of vaping-linked deaths and illnesses in the United States is feeding caution about the product, already banned in some places.
In September 2019 India became the latest country to ban the import, sale, production and advertising of e-cigarettes, citing in particular concerns for its youth.
The devices are already banned in several places such as Brazil, Singapore, Thailand and the US state of Massachusetts.